Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Solitude, escape, and fourth grade flashbacks

How do I spend my time when the parents are out of town and Jim has disappeared into the city?

Do I use the quiet free time to devote myself to the paper? No (though I did get another solid two pages today). 
Do I clean and mop and do lots of laundry and dusting? Again, No. 
Do I call or contact or at the very least write to dear friends? no . . . (and of this "no" I'm hang-my-head ashamed)
Do I organize all the books, write fifteen poems, or practice my sadly neglected piano? You supply the answer. I can't stand the relentless negation. 

Well then, what does an Anna do when she's out in the country and left to herself? 

For one, she runs errands. She buys cantaloupe and watermelon, returns that movie (Defiance, oh, Daniel Craig) to a Redbox and has trouble forcing it into the return slot (um - press "Return DVD" on the screen. Yeah), picks up a prescription, and makes a Winn-Dixie run. Which would all sound very productive except for the first stop, which was the motivating force behind the whole trip into town. The first visit was the tiny P.C. library, which held in its humble shelves Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Did I mention that I just started this series with the second book last Thursday? It's a sad proof of the quick-acting nature of series addiction. But I would like to state that I did not start reading it immediately when I got home. Nope. I cleaned my car, sliced up the melons, and made myself a bowl of lentils and rice, which I ate with a splash of salsa verde while I listened to Bach. 

I felt very cultured. 

Then I dove back into Hogwarts. And re-emerged only to eat some chocolate and type this post. 

[Note: I do hit trends about ten years too late. That's why I never quote Youtube videos. I'm always bound to discover it the week right after it's dropped on the social meter from "witty" to "overquoted" or "defunct." Another reason is that I hate giving in to trendy stuff, like Francine Rivers books or Sperrys, because it reminds me of being in 4th grade when everyone was wearing hot pink girl power shirts and makeup and all I could think was how stupid it was for nine year old girls to use lip stick and blush. Unfortunately, this bit of precocious wisdom led to a fierce foolish resistance to anything popular, even if it is good and I'd really enjoy it if people weren't so crazy about it. I'm learning, though. I'm about to go buy a Beyonce song.]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Life in Between

What am I doing today? Writing the Great American Poetry Research Paper, of course. Day One. And . . . I'm really enjoying it. 

It's an interesting phenomenon I've observed time and time again. Read widely about something, and then its story starts to come together, and I realize I'm bursting to tell people about it. I will tell everyone who will listen about why the urban gothic novel was so popular in mid-19th century America (reasons economic, social, political and psychological). Or how the history and dynamics of Japanese culture led to its role in World War Two. I even enjoyed Dr. Brown's insane essay questions, that basically said "Tell me everything you know about Germany from the Grimms to Hitler." There's just this joy in understanding, in not just knowing the facts but seeing the story. I love that. 

But this paper reporting my research "findings." It's in the really absorbing stage, and I dare say no more lest I tire of it too soon. I might even post some of it over at my sadly neglected poetry blog. It's interesting, I promise! I bring in Youtube and Friends

Back from Destin, and gorgeous gorgeous clear green ocean. I avoided spending money at the outlet shops. And I started the Harry Potter series. 

Or re-started. I read the first one back in the eighth grade - I was at my Georgia aunt's house, and it was so fascinating I don't think I moved from the couch all day. And I haven't touched them since then. Until now. I finished the second on Friday and should be done with the third sometime today or tomorrow. And gracious but I can't wait to get back to Hogwarts. Addictive, so addictive. 

In other news, I am very frustrated with God because He doesn't do things my way. Which means surrender is a lot, a whole lot harder than last week and the only way to have peace. And surprisingly, in some ways I prefer this to the fuzzy feel good of last week (I should explain: last week was wonderful in its peace and calm, but life starts to feel small. The goal of life is not just to be peaceful and calm. Of course, as a friend reminded me, it's not to have a restless spirit either). Why? Because it's more real. See, I'm a pessimistic idealist, and I've been praying for about a year (almost e-zackly) to become an optimistic realist. And I'm starting to see the glimmerings of that happening. It's just that it's frustrating to a personality like mine - the thought of rest when there's still tension, of contentment that hopes, of grace connected with discipline (didn't someone write a book about that? I should read it again), it all throws me for a frustrating loop. No tension, God! You're either supposed to make me perfect right away or let me do what I want. None of this in between changing stuff. 

I have two trains of thought that keep me from absolutely exploding with irritation. One is refusing to look farther than this 24 hour time frame (as far as walking with Him goes, I mean. I still do stuff like buy my books for class and plan my Oscar acceptance speech. I just don't imagine the struggles of tomorrow, and tomorrow, and . . .). 
The second is remembering that He loves me. Not trying to feel it or get a warm glow. Just putting the fingers of my mind around it like you might hold onto a satisfyingly weighty pebble stone. And letting go of all the suitcases full of rocks I've been trying to drag around. (Well, that got abstract in a hurry.) Rocks like blaming God, pride, impatience, performance, anxious controlling thoughts, anger anger anger, fear. I can't do anything to change or get rid of them -which really infuriates me - but I can let go of them instead of using them to build a wall between God and me. 

And with that, it's about time for the mail to come (an excitement out here in the country) and for me to get back to scribbling about the relationship of poetry and the American people. 

I will go out to get the mail, say thank you for the sunshine and my Sweet Dog, and write. 

Today? It's hard. It's also good. 

(And then I'll sweep the kitchen. 19 year old brothers forget to clean the kitchen when their families are at the beach.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Roasted Daily

This, friends, is out of the ordinary. 

For one: a post only 2 days after the last post.
[Just for the record, I could easily write every day, but I try to condense that stream of consciousness into one effort. Who wants to hear me rambling about how I nearly fell down the stairs again? I'm writing all the time in my head. It just doesn't all make it into cold type. And that's a good thing.]

For two: a post before 8 in the morning. I write in the evening. Because I feel guilty about resting until after 7 pm. Even if I have nothing whatsoever pressing, if I am lost between two fat weeks of no responsibilities, I will gosh darn make something for myself to do. Even if it's just wandering aimlessly around the house with a broom. It's rule #73 in my Very Long List of Useless Rules: Engaging in recreational activity, such as reading a book, in the middle of the day is Lazy and Shiftless and Wrong. 

I told you they were useless rules. 

So. Then why am I writing? 

Just to say I'm glad. That's all. 

It's a Stumptown kind of day. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Party Like It's 1949

This weekend?

It was a good weekend. Though it didn't turn out the way I had originally planned. 

Original plan: Clean and cook frantically Friday. Run around frantically at grandparents' anniversary party Saturday. Leave right after and drive frantically to friend's farmhouse in Georgia. Drive back Sunday. 

Sometimes, though, one simply cannot do everything one would wish to do. So I bid a tearful goodbye to the farmhouse plan and slowed down. 

It was nice. 

Yes, the weekend was very fun. A party at the Senior Citizens' Center? Fun? Why yes. My favorite cousins were there and my very good friend Kait was there and there were lots and lots of family and friends that I don't get to see very often and it was just . . . fun.

And if I got told that I am the exact replica of my mother once, I got told a thousand times. 

Another fun part was Austin and Tyler. Every time I see them, they are a little taller and a little wittier and a little - well, older. Friday night was very nice because we got to hang out, just me and them. This almost never happens because they are strumming the guitar with Jim and I'm cleaning or cooking or keeping the other cousins from killing themselves. So it was good, on Friday, to watch "Lars" (fifth time in six months), and reminisce about "Milo and Otis" (Shannon, I refuse to believe animals died in the making of that movie . . . though it's probably true). 
And the next day Kait came down and we had more good hang out time. In fact, the conversation was so good that I didn't notice we were headed west instead of east on the interstate until we'd taken a good half hour detour. Really, I did it on purpose. More conversation time. 

The other good part of the weekend? My mind. It was calm. I let things go. I practiced trusting God. I enjoyed the people and the beautiful weather.

Really, you don't know how much anxiety sucks the life out of things until you choose to live without it for a few days. Wonderful. 

And it's weird, because I'm such a natural skeptic, but I've had several of those, "Wow, God is real" moments . . . you know, when He's weaving such an obvious theme in your life that all you can do is shake your head and laugh. Right now, it's surrender. And guess what? You can't do it all in go. It's a daily - no wait, nanosecond by nanosecond - kind of deal. 

In other news, I peeled 8 pounds of carrots today. And decided it would be fun to teach poetry to kids. And that sub-80 degree weather in July in Alabama is occasion for much rejoicing. And that I will never, ever get tired of white clouds and blue sky. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wandering Soul

Currently watching a Mystery Science Theatre episode, "Hercules and the Moon Men," with Jim (his pick). Mom studying for her computer class (Excel passed, on to Access). Jim laughing uproariously.  
He is a fun brother when the death cloud of work isn't hanging over his head. But when he first comes home, I've established a system. Don't ask about his day. Don't ask him anything. Just say "Hey" and leave him alone for an hour or so. Eventually the scowl will fade some and he
will tell you about the entire family of motorized scooter users that came through his register that day. 

"This is what I was built for . . . good old-fashioned violence." 

I spent most of the weekend with Kait, and a good time we had too. A balance of good conversation and pure fun. She knows how to throw really good (seven hour) parties. And the best part was after everyone but the last four had left, and we sat around the kitchen table and enjoyed the one a.m. thunder and lightning show. 

Then I came home to a deliriously happy Mosby, who I love more every day. I always mocked  those people who are so crazy about a dog - you know, the kind of people whose dog slobbers in your ear and they exclaim that oh, Fluffy likes you, and you grimace out a wan smile. Yuck. 
And now I am one of those blind, besotted fools. The Sweet Dog slobbers on me and body slams me (he's getting better) and smells absolutely awful and I absolutely do not mind. How did this happen?
Dogs just . . . they need you. And then you need them back. 

P.S. Credit Joanna with the lovely photo!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Apples of Love: Sweet One Hundred

Side note: Don't you love it when appointments fall through and suddenly you've got the rest of the whole, long, lovely afternoon? I do.

To the subject at hand. It is a truth of long standing that I do Not like tomatoes. No no no. And I am a lover of exotic foods, the toddler who happily munched on raw vidalia onions, the three year old that begged her mother to buy an artichoke, the four year old who calmly ordered a cheese omelette at her first Waffle House visit. The list of foods I will not eat is very short indeed.

But it does contain tomatoes (I think the only other things are sardines, salmon, and shrimp. Three nasty alliterative seafood). Pretty close to the top. I have never liked them: they look amazing, but then they are too acidic, too watery, too seedy, too . . . tomato-y. The only ones I make an exception for are yellow tomatoes, and they are divine. They are what red tomatoes want to be and never can attain. They are sweet, golden summer exploding in your mouth. But red tomatoes?


Ok, all that was just to establish that I am not a tomato fan, so that the following incident will have more significance. Yesterday, see, I came back from a hot, happy, sweaty walk, and ran some banana bread next door to our sweet elderly neighbors (Mom makes them banana bread about once a week. That woman . . . I've got a lot to live up to). I delivered the bread, explained to sweet Mrs. B. that if I hugged her she would have to shower too, and Mr. B. dropped a plastic bag in my hand - a ziploc full of tiny bright red tomatoes.
"Sweet One Hundred," he said. "They're the only tomatoes I eat, beside the ones on a hamburger."
Those words made me perk up. A fellow tomato hater proclaiming their praises? I popped one in my mouth.

Cold. Juicy. Flavorful but not tart. Lawsamercy, but they were good. I ate five more on the way home. And another five before supper.

I have found my tomato kindred spirit. Thank you, Mr. B.

And now for another long walk. And blueberry picking this evening! I really can't handle all the excitement in our little town. Next thing you know we'll be having a barn raising (actually that would be really, really fun. I digress).
These walks are becoming my sanity. Doing something physical is such a relief after five straight hours of reading/writing. Vacuuming is positively enjoyable, scrubbing sets me humming, and during the walks I think and wander and just decompress.

Then I go back and read the rest of the evening.

I've got so much to read this summer. Not just for the research, but my own personal list. I realized the other day a stack of 12 books had made its way into the den, and there are even more in the small study where I'm trying to keep them corralled. I'm trying to absorb all the Kathleen Norris possible, and then there's Common Grounds, The Genesis Question, Confessions from an Honest Wife, Inkheart, The Scent of Water, a wonderful Steve Brown, How People Change, Standing by Words - and that's just currently reading. I've got Graham Greene, Frederic Buechner, and Kierkegaard on the list. Will I get to them? Um, probably not. At least not before school starts. And then the things I read are always referencing other things to read and there are just so many books. And I want to devour them all.

"The hours between eight in the evening and one or two in the morning have always been my magic hours. Against the blue candlewick bedspread the white pages of my open book, illuminated by a circle of lamplight, were the gateway to another world."
-Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Friday, July 3, 2009

Starry night

Hello, class. It's Friday night. And I'm pretty content.

That right there is the difference between my two lives, at home and at college. At college, I never ever (ever) spend a night chilling in the room. I just feel physically incapable of solitude on weekend nights. Usually because there's something happening, but even if there isn't, then by golly I'm gonna make something happen. People, people, people. I want people. I need people. The End.

That is my college life.

When I go home, something happens. My introverted nature emerges, and I can pretty much live at home for a week without venturing into society, even for a trip to Walgreens. In the evenings I read books and watch Masterpiece Theatre (why yes, I am a nerd, how did you guess) and sometimes my dad and I make a trip to McDonald's for an ice cream cone. A vanilla ice cream cone. Cue the strains of "Old Folks at Home."

And yet I know I still need people. Which is why I'm so glad when I do spend time with people: Val, Christine, Claire and Amy are in town, I had breakfast and good conversation with Mrs. Morgan this morning, and I get to see Kait next weekend. They remind me of our human need for relationship, community, friends who really see you. It's good for me to break out of my summer homebody cocoon.

Now, time for an episode of "Foyle's War."

I'm celebrating the 4th at Liberty Church (appropriate, no?), for a Sacred Harp singin. I hope we sing Bridgewater.

Reading Inkheart. Good for book lovers, and those in need of reality escape.

Done done done with class. Now to concentrate on research alone, which excites me. Next on the horizon: link between poetry and film. Is it weird that sometimes research makes me feel like an explorer?

Speaking of poetry: I revamped my poetry site. Drop by and leave a comment on what you'd like to see! Unless it has something to do with Edgar Guest . . .